For more than a year, many westbound drivers crossing the Mississippi River on the Interstate 10 bridge connecting Baton Rouge and Port Allen may have wondered why two giant, white domes were under construction on the west bank.

Last month, large trucks began filling one of the domes with tons of wood pellets. Those two huge eggs are part of Drax Group’s drive to convert its coal-fired power plants in the United Kingdom to use wood pellets as renewable fuel. Both Drax — which reported about $4.18 billion in total revenue for 2014 — and Louisiana’s taxpayers have bet big money on this venture’s success.

Baton Rouge Transit, a subsidiary of Drax Group, announced in November 2012 it would spend $30 million on three domes and other equipment and facilities at the Port of Greater Baton Rouge. A month later, Gov. Bobby Jindal and another Drax subsidiary — Drax Biomass — announced Drax would spend $120 million, combined, on the port facility and a wood pellet production plant near Bastrop in Morehouse Parish.

Drax officials said they would hire 16 full-time employees at the port and 47 at the wood pellet plant in Morehouse Parish. In return, Jindal said, the state would grant a $1.7 million economic-development loan that would not have to be repaid if Drax honored its payroll obligations. In addition, Drax was granted use of Louisiana’s Quality Jobs and Industrial Tax Exemption programs.

From The Advocate: https://theadvocate.com/news/11931296-123/wood-pellet-operations-underway-at